Native-born Mainers who come home for the holidays often get some form of the question from relatives: “When are you moving back?” Now they may hear it even when they get out of the house.

Live and Work in Maine, a business-sponsored group that promotes career opportunities here, is using the holidays as a chance to connect with young adults who left the state for education or employment but now may be open to coming back.

That’s a key demographic to reach if Maine is going to overcome the workforce challenges that come from its aging population. Having grown up here, they already have a connection to Maine and may already see some of the advantages that would come from returning home.

However, it is still going to take some convincing. As with others who may be drawn to move here, these Maine natives need to know that there are opportunities here. At the same time, Maine needs to protect and enhance the quality of life that is a central part of any relocation pitch.

Speaking to the former, Live and Work in Maine is partnering with dozens of bars, restaurants and hotels to deliver to people home for the holidays information on the job market here. A survey last year found that people who live out of state see Maine as a place to relax, not work – they see it as isolated and lacking in opportunity, and need to be shown that is not the truth.

And while most of these folks don’t have to be convinced that Maine is otherwise a great place to live, decision-makers at all levels can’t forget that it didn’t get that way by accident – and it won’t stay that way unless we consciously take steps to preserve it.

Smart policies and widespread public support for conservation have given every Mainer access to the state’s beautiful outdoors, in the mountains or along the coast, in remote areas and just outside cities. Maine has good schools that require and deserve support, and a low crime rate that benefits from close communities and the generosity of their members.

Traffic even around our biggest cities moves freely compared to Boston, New York or Philadelphia, though it will take smart transportation policy, with a focus on public transit, to keep it that way. Housing, too, is becoming a burden for workers and families, and the lack of affordable options threatens livability in many areas.

An openness to immigrant populations — another requirement for meeting our workforce needs — has brought new energy to Portland and Lewiston, among other places. Immigrants bring with them new voices and colorful cultures — not to mention an entrepreneurial spirit — which create the kinds of communities parents want to raise their kids in.

About 10,000 Mainers a year turn 65. Even if every Mainer born for the foreseeable future grows up to stay and work here, it won’t be enough to make up for the loss of working-age residents.

To counteract that stark math, Maine needs to attract people. To do that, we need to emphasize what makes Maine so attractive.


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